In recent weeks, myths and legends have swirled on social media and across the world’s dinner tables as farmers throughout California have been trying to save their cows by pouring manure on them in a bid to save them from an early demise.
People in Australia have been told the same story. But just like the cows, these Tusks have a very real story to tell.
At the heart of most of these theories are sightings of large, protruding bodies of water. These have included large lakes, large rivers, large creeks, large mountains and, most recently, large swaths of land on the continent’s “top end.”
The first use of animals to make such a watering system date back to the Mesolithic era, about 4,500 BC. Then, men were drawn to large water bodies because they offered respite for the poor, said Melissa Todd, a senior research specialist at Australian Museum.
Such an arrangement would also serve as a springboard for bigger animals such as elephants, since large water bodies can carry large amounts of water through larger streams and rivers.
Tusks found at the time may have belonged to elephants, giving off far less weight than humans do. “You’d see bigger females get a lot of life but there’d be a thinning out of males.”
Over the subsequent 4,000 years, the water features gave way to man-made irrigation systems that ended up getting bigger.
“A system that’s intended to last maybe three or four decades, if it only lasts three or four decades, chances are it’s big enough to sustain a potential ecosystem – elephants,” said Todd.
These networks started shrinking to a point where other animals were able to evolve much the same kind of limbs.
By the middle of the 19th century, the wimpier upper breeds that existed were able to reproduce easily without these vast system, with the dinosaurs beginning to lose their advantage.
Most water features have now gone dry, but, thanks to these novel legs, smaller animals are able to move away from humans and get back on their own ground.
However, animals still need water to survive. In Australia, Western Australia still has hundreds of alpine streams and rivers running off the lower ranges, providing this resource to animals and people alike.
A trek across these streams would put you in the direct path of this tough water system, a maze that is fed by a combination of mountain snow and streams that originate from lakes and rivers flowing from the ocean.
According to Richard Booth, a lead ornithologist at the University of Western Australia, these rivers all flow through water systems and bodies of water, some of which were water systems that fed watering holes or pools for animals or humans.
One of these could well be the Sydney and Fenner Creeks, which are connected to other creeks and rivers that form the southern edge of Perth, Australia.
“If you come along, there’s the massive of moulfaun, there’s the Hedgeman Creeks, there’s the Hawkesbury. All of these rivers are connected because they’ve all fed the wellheads,” said Booth.
Torn from the water by the dry years, these same creeks have recently recuperated from decades of drought.
The finding comes from research conducted in the Western Australian town of Albany. It shows that dry winters can damage major ditches and creeks.
In 1981, the study showed that the steep rock walls of the creekside protection dam eroded with years of low precipitation.
Furthermore, Booth has noted that water level rises before winter is gone, suggesting the existence of this long-dead water system.
Whether in Canada, Africa or Australia, water remains a constant and it might not be long before we see a modern day water war, but for now, it’s water elephants, not cows, that will need to catch the raw water before it becomes sea water.
Rob Sims is an information and technology student at Leith College, Sydney. He has just completed a degree in media and communication studies from the University of New South Wales.
This article was written by Australian Museum’s Media and Communications Lab based on a research provided by Richard Booth, senior ornithologist at the University of Western Australia